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Drama and history : teaching historical thinking through role-play

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Cochran, Daniel J.
Johnson, Edric C.
Drama in education; Role playing; History--Study and teaching (Middle school)
This action research project examined the effects of drama-based, role-playing strategies on student academic performance and motivation to learn history. This paper discusses the skills necessary to be an effective historical researcher and critical thinker. It analyzes various studies on drama-based practices and looks specifically at role-playing exercises with an emphasis on Mantle of the Expert. It provides challenges faced when implementing these practices to over 130 eighth grade students in an early American history classroom. Furthermore, the research highlights changes the teacher made during instruction days and how students responded to these changes. Student motivation was measured using a pre-project and post-project historical thinking survey. Student understanding and attitudes toward drama-based strategies were documented and evaluated through two sessions of student interviews conducted by the teacher. Student responses to the drama-based activities were documented in a teacher observation and reflection journal along with descriptions of the various strategies used. The first person perspectives of the teacher and students of the drama provides essential information into the value of drama-based education and how it can improve instruction to provide an environment conducive to the learning of history and exploration through inquiry-based learning and interpretation through various perspectives. The research concluded that drama based strategies and Mantle of the Expert have a positive impact on student motivation and understanding of thinking like a historian. The results support the inclusion of drama based role-playing strategies and the Mantle of the Expert inquiry based approach to middle school social studies courses. This approach combines the skills needed for students to develop into independent decision-makers within a student- centered classroom environment that promotes social interaction when problem solving.
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